Saturday, April 20, 2019

Hershey Felder: A Paris Love Story (Claude Debussy): ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG

Hershey Felder must be getting tired of dreaming up ways to tell the stories of his favorite composers. For us, just listening to him sit at the piano and play, while talking to us about musical history and context, would be more than enough. But not enough for Felder.

In the World Premiere of "A Paris Love Story," featuring the music of Claude Debussy, Felder adds a bit of autobiography, as he relates the story of a young boy (Felder), infatuated with Debussy's music, who travels through Paris searching for homes where Debussy lived, bridges the composer may have crossed, and of course the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral. When Felder announced the boy was standing in front of Notre Dame there was a loud "ohhhhhh!" from the audience.

We love Hershey Felder and would not miss any of his shows. But perhaps the artifice is beginning to show. His French-accented English begins to sound Russian and the story of the young boy in Paris really has no beginning or end. We love Claude Debussy as much as the next person, but the 12-tone music invented by Debussy might not be accessible enough to sustain an entire show.

After the curtain, Felder stood at the front of the stage and took questions from the audience. These were our favorite moments. He is a citizen of the world, erudite and brilliant. His answers were on point and expanded upon. When asked about Notre Dame he reminded us that there are tens of thousands of tourists visiting the cathedral every day. That no one was killed putting out that fire is its own miracle.  At the end, he said, "I can't listen to the news anymore. Just be kind to each other. "


The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division grants "Hershey Felder: A Paris Love Story (Claude Debussy)" Three Stars with a Bangle of Praise. Hershey Felder is a wonderful musician but he is somewhat less of a story teller. When the music dominates, as in "Irving Berlin," we can't get enough. In this brand new show there is plenty of music but for now it is taking second fiddle to the autobiography.

"Hershey Felder: A Paris Love Story (Claude Debussy)" 
Mountain View Center for Performing Arts
500 Castro Street, Mountain View
Through May 5

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